‘What a worry the Ulez must be for you both,’ said a friend with a nod to the pick-up truck parked outside our house.
It was kind of him to wonder. The builder boyfriend drives an old Mitsubishi L200 to work in London every day and like almost every other working man he cannot afford to buy a new vehicle that is Ulez compliant so you would presume he has to pay the charge. But that’s not quite how it’s turning out.
If I might speak for the working man for a second, because not many seem to be doing that, let me explain with an anecdote from the life of the builder boyfriend, who came home the other day in a buoyant mood to tell me this. He had been working on a large house where he and a plumber were among four or five men retained by a wealthy lady with an electric Audi parked outside.
This lady, who was nice enough, came out of her house as the workmen sat drinking their tea and struck up a conversation on a topic she evidently thought they might find sympathetic of her.
‘I do feel so sorry for you chaps,’ she said, ‘with the Ulez expansion.’ The men kept drinking and said nothing. ‘I suppose you’ll all have to get rid of your old vans now.’
And she glanced at the BB’s black L200 ‘Warrior’ and the plumber’s panel van. And still the men sat quietly drinking their tea.
In the end, the plumber piped up: ‘We ain’t getting rid of nothing, love,’ he said. ‘I can’t afford a new van.’ And the BB shook his head to indicate that neither could he.